When my daughter said yes to marrying her husband I became anxious and scared. It wasn't that I finally realized that she was about to leave us, go and live with another man's family. Rather, I was unable to trust that she and her husband could survive marriage and all the days of laughter and the days of tears I know lie ahead.
The wedding was to take place in two months and neither I nor my daughter knew this man well. My anxiety was turning into fear. I realized that I had not done much to prepare my daughter for marriage, and that preparations for the wedding were not going to allow me the chance of discussing that with her or with the husband to be.
On the wedding night, kissing her good by, I was drowned in tears. No one cautioned me what a kick in the stomach that can be. I tried very hard to busy myself with making dua'a (supplication).
This is a true story which happened to a friend of mine a few years back. At first I thought he overreacted, and felt that his worries were exaggerated a bit. Today, I know for fact that all concerned parents with children, getting ready to marry, have experienced similar situations. On one hand, parents are finding it increasingly difficult to raise responsible and marriage-ready children. On the other, the divorce rate and the level of marriage problems in this society have reached unprecedented high.
There is a multitude of myths about marriage which help to make the current situation the way it is. Most of young people expect marriage to solve problems or they see a wedding as the fairy tale happily ever after ending. In addition, the media is full of silly stereotypes of impossibly happy marriages, and when it tries to be realistic, it presents it as a secular experience, or a mere experiment, if one fails try another. Our children must learn that marriage starts on the wedding night and is grown over a lifetime.
This is not going to happen solely by talking. It is one thing to talk about happy and secure marriage and another thing entirely to build and maintain such a marriage, day in and day out. Our young must understand that marriage can be fragile, and that it requires nurture, time and much effort. And because marriage brings together and affects many families and people, there is so much riding on it. It stands to reason that the most important decision of life is the one we make concerning our life-partners.
This decision must be handled through careful considerations, consultation and a lot of dua'a.
The good news is that many of our communities have, recently, started to provide their young with pre-marriage counseling. This important tool can be a great help for couples to determine if they are ready for marriage and assist them to focus on their relationship by having them consider situations that may face married couples. Once the decision to marry is firm, the counselor can then proceed to help the couple with the wedding preparations.
There are no simple recipes for preparing our children for marriage. I hope that the pre-marriage counseling feature in this issue will be helpful to those who find themselves in a situation similar to that of my friend.
'O Lord, help our children nurture their marriages. Inspire them with creativity and help them to thoroughly enjoy this gift.